Where do you connect?
And what is the quality of that connection on the various social media sites and apps?
Here are a few of my observations on “connecting.” I am proposing a interaction value (iV = iValue from 1 to 10) 10 being the highest: example-sitting in a cafe chatting with the person.
Facebook Status Updates. (iV=6) Status updates are an easy way to interact with social media. You put it out there, what you’re thinking about what your doing. And if friends are like-minded or feeling social they can add a comment. The discussion is limited. The timeliness of the responses are not expected. In fact a response is not expected at all. But I give an up point for actually taking the time to comment. That alone is a sign of connectivity that is rare.
Facebook Wall-to-Wall or Direct Message. (iV=8) While these messages are like IM, I am never sure if the comment I am posting, even if I am doing a wall to wall post, is actually private or just no “published” on my page. So I still don’t trust Facebook for much open discussion.
Twitter: The RT (ReTweet) or @ (reply). ( iV=8) While there is connection and some exchange of mutual respect or disrespect, depending on the tweet, there is still not much content. 140 characters is good for cutting to the chase or babbling nonsense.
Twitter: D (Direct Message). (iV=9) This is the analogue of IM. A private message directly to the individual. Except for the AUTO-DM (infamously known as the Auto-Bot responder), the direct message has a very high value.
EMail. (iV=3/9) The quality of connection in an email is directly related to the subject matter and the prior relationship with the recipient. I cannot count the number of “brilliant” emails I have written as introductions that have been ignored. I am not sure what the culture today is breeding with our responsibility to reply to emails, but I would guess that I am in the minority in trying to respond, at least with an acknowledgement, to most direct emails. If the message is about work or money, it seems like to many people in the business world that it is perfectly okay to ignore the message. No reply EVER! That’s weird. Especially when it comes from “friends.” On a social network, no problem, but a direct email is a fairly high commitment of time. And if you don’t reply, I guess your commitment to “connecting” with me is obvious.
LinkedIN Direct Messages. (iV=9) I have had great luck using LinkedIN to connect with potential employers, head hunters, colleagues and getting informaition on potential client companies or employers. Even using the Forward Through a Colleague system I have had about an 80% connect rate. Meaning at least I get a response. That said, if LinkedIN continues to drive memberships rather than quality of service, I am afraid the LinkedIN value may go down over time. Yes there are people trying to scam linked in. There are a lot a MLM and get rich quicksters on the LinkedIN Q and A boards.
LinkedIN Groups. (iV=4/8) There are good Groups and Bad Groups. I find “active” communities within the groups to be rare. Usually the groups that are agressive about networking have a primary champion who does weekly updates and introductions. Trying to promote the value of your group seems like an odd pitch. Either the Group discussions and information will provide valuable information or it won’t. Some groups are mere “badges” that proclaim things like “I Am Green,” and “Professional Marketers.” I find those to be less useful. The groups that have a more tightly defined focus “Online UX Designers” for example usually has a fairly high level of dicussion and sharing.
Instant Messaging. (iV=9) Using a multi-IM client like Adium I have access to all of my “chat” function sites in one place. But actually that’s a problem. For a while I had Skype and Facebook chat connected to my IM client. But to me, that’s like putting my real-time attention out there for 100s of folks to see. I have since dialed back on Skype and mostly keep Facebook chat off. I open Adium when I want to reach out and connect with a colleague or loved one. Imagine inviting any of your Facebook friends to initate a Skype Video call. Why would you? So I mainly keep IM closed. When I am on, I have a purpose I am trying to accomplish. Either I am working directly with a group or team, or I am asking a question of a colleage that I need help with in RealTime. Everything else has to go through a less direct channel. A bouncing open IM window screams for attention. And if I am writing, that’s the last thing I want to pay attention to.
Blog Comments. (iV=6/8) I am always amazed at how hard it is to get folks to comment. I WORK at it. And it is a random post that gets comments. That said, once the comments happen, if they are sincere they get a strong connect value for me. If I take the time to comment extensively on some one else’s blog, AMD’s Patrick Morehead, for example, I am spending my time and effort polishing a communication that can engage and further the conversation. I am not a big fan of the “Right on, great post.” comment type. But even those show a level of connectivity. And here’s the secret. Commenting on high-value blogs drives traffic back to your site. As an example a single comment on an Australian blog discussing the issues of broadband metering generated 50 direct hits in two hours. Contrast that with a Tweet, when I promote a post my immediate response rate is about 10 – 15. And that’s me working the Twittershere. The comment then continued to generate links for about a week for a total of 112 links from a blog in Australia. The comment took me about 15 minute to right, but the value of that traffic was very high value.
So in “community” we think of trust and connection. The value of that “connection” on most sites is very low. And I believe that comes from the lack of commitment. If I add your Group or Cause to my Facebook page, my investment is complete. And if I taunt, cajole, plead and demand your comments on a community or group and I get NOTHING. I would guess the “value” of that connection is low. You’ve added the Group as a piece of flair, but your commitment to DO anything related, or even comment on our efforts simply does not exist.
I am afraid the majority of Twitter followers are of the later variety. About 2% of my “followers” interact with me in any way.
However the beauty of that number is this. Of that 2% that DO take the time to RT, DM (NOT Auto-DM) or otherwise engage in a discussion with me, those relationships tend to grow over time. And the potential for that connection is HIGH. But the “relationship” must be cultivated.
Coffee with a friend or New Friend. (iV=10) It is a lot of work to meet someone is real time in the real world. You have to set a time, a place and then you have to remember. And if there are problems, the value of that connection will be tested.
Two recent examples.
1. I had tweeted that I wanted to join someone for coffee in the afternoon. A close colleage accepted and we made a date via Twitter. Well, unexpected things took place and I discovered about 10 minutes after our rendesvous time that I was still at home. I called immediately. And because this person and I are friends, the mistake was understandable, and we did the discussion via the call. Mission accomplished. Face-to-face time, missed.
2. Same concept, via Facebook I connected with a former colleague and we agreed to meet for lunch that afternoon. We agreed on a place and time and neiter of us showed up. We went to different locations of the same restaurant. Now, being a web worker, I was emailing, IMing, and Facebooking this person to see where they were. He was completely offline and we had a miss. Dial forward another week. Same idea, we’re going to meet for coffee at 10am. And guess what, unexpected things took place and I was running late. The bad part was I had left my phone at home. So I could not call the person and could not be reached to let him know I was on my way and in a traffic jam. Problem was, he was still offline. And though he tried to call me, when I arrived 17 minutes late, he was not there. The good part was, it was a wired coffeeshop so I immediately got online and started pinging, emailing, and FBing this person. But again, he was offline. So I had coffee, worked on the web for an hour, happy to have the quiet time, and then went home. Hours I got a somewhat angry email. He had been at the coffee shop but left after 15 minutes when he could not get in touch with me.
So the first miss fueled the second miss. But also, my friend, not being a digital nomad, did not have his computer when he arrived at the wired cafe and therefore was left sitting there waiting. My friend in the 1st example is 100% digital, android phone, wireless pc-card, office free. He was quite happy to have the time alone. We made contact on the phone and took care of what we needed to take care of.
And there’s one more example that illuminates just a bit more of the complexity of real time connections vs. online connections. A colleague at Dell and I arranged to meet for lunch. We had met once at Dell, but had been exchanging emails for 3 years due to our working relationship with various clients and agencies. So there we were sitting in the waiting area at the Hula Hut and we did not recognize each other. She pinged my phone via TXT and left. When the TXT arrived at my phone, 10 feet away, she was already back in her car headed for home. We laughed that perhaps both of use wearing hats had thrown us off. She commented that noticing my Mac made her think that it probably was NOT me. I mean, I worked at Dell.
So the value of connections with Social Media can be high or low. But the Trust in the connection is quite fragile. While getting together Real-Time is hard. Getting connected online in a way that allows to you share at a high or confidential level is rare. I am very interested in understanding what creates TRUST online. What parts of a social media platform (NING, FaceBook, LinkedIN, Twitter) make Trust easy or hard.
The ultimate test comes when there is a miss or a problem. If the relationship can weather the ups and downs of the real world, then the connection might survive to build into a working/trusting/collaborating relationship.